Alicia Erian’s Towelhead Chronicles One Girl's Coming
of Age in America

Author Will Read from Her New Novel April 7 at Wellesley College

For immediate release:
March 16, 2005
Arlie Corday

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- When Alicia Erian first began her novel Towelhead (Simon & Schuster, April 2005), set at the time of the first Gulf War, the second war with Iraq hadn’t yet happened. When a Middle East battle again tore apart the world, she threw away her first hundred pages and started over. Suddenly, her feelings about ethnicity, hate, love and struggle called for something more immediate and personal.

A coming of age story, in part autobiographical, Towelhead follows the life of Jasira, a 13-year-old American girl who comes to live with her immigrant Lebanese father, a stern, forbidding man. Jasira finds she can’t talk to him about her mixed-up emotions as a developing woman. Nor can she tell him what it feels like to face school every day without any friends or to get called horrible names like “camel jockey” and “towelhead.” The rocky relationship between father and daughter sends her looking for comfort in other people, sometimes for good; sometimes for ill.

Her publisher notes, “Towelhead is, at its heart, a hope-filled book about the power of genuine love, whether from strangers down the street or imperfect parents. Fulfilling the promise of her short fiction, Towelhead affirms Alicia Erian as a gifted, incisive and courageous novelist.”

Erian will read from Towelhead Thursday, April 7, at 6:30 pm in Wellesley College's Collins Cinema. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the newly established Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley. There will be a wine and cheese reception at 6 pm in Collins Café.

Erian, who teaches at Wellesley as the college’s first Newhouse visiting professor of creative writing, keeps in mind an important rule for any book, regardless of its subject or message.

“The writing should entertain you,” she said. “A book is like a shark; if it stops moving, it will die.”

Her book has already attracted wide attention. It has been named to Barnes & Nobles “Discover Great New Writers Program” and has been reviewed warmly by Elle magazine and Booklist. It also has been optioned by Alan Ball, who plans to adapt Towelhead for his film directorial debut. The author also has an extensive book tour coming up at the end of the academic year that will take her to New York, California, Texas and elsewhere.

Her first book of short stories, The Brutal Language of Love (Villard/Random House), was published in 2001. She has written fiction and non-fiction for journals and magazines, and her screenplay adaptation of the title story from The Brutal Language of Love is currently under option by Eva Kolodner, producer of the film, Boys Don't Cry.

Erian received a B.A. in English from Binghamton University and an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College. Her visiting professorship at Wellesley will allow her to share her writing skills with students there for three years.

For more information, contact the Wellesley College Office of Public Information at 781-283-2373 or e-mail For directions and a map of the college, go to


Alicia Erian

Photo by Linda Dubilier